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Setting the standard in rabbinic education

The Art of Jewish Pastoral Counseling Book Launch Party

Over a hundred distinguished guests, including academics, lay leaders, Jewish communal professionals, and mental health professionals packed into the seventh floor of the Manhattan JCC on Thursday, December 1. They were there to celebrate the launch of an important new book, The Art of Jewish Pastoral Counseling: A Guide for all Faiths, on the importance of pastoral counseling for rabbis and clergy – of all denominations – written by Dr. Michelle Friedman, the Sharon and Steven Lieberman Chair in Pastoral Counseling at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School (YCT), and Dr. Rachel Yehuda, former YCT Board member and Director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Drs. Friedman and Yehuda role-played three pastoral vignettes from the book, and after each one asked the guests for their thoughts and reflections: did the Rabbi handle this situation properly? What did he do right, and what could he have done differently? What was going on below the surface for the congregant? This served as a wonderful way of illustrating how important these pastoral encounters are, how necessary it is for rabbis and clergy to be trained in this field, and how critical a contribution this book can and will make to rabbinic pastoral counseling.

The book contains fascinating case studies and reflections, many of which were gleaned during seventeen years of work with YCT students and rabbis in the field. Students and rabbis face multi-layered questions from congregants and associates, questions which could only be properly approached with a deep education in pastoral counseling.

YCT is grateful for the leadership of Dr. Friedman in establishing and running this groundbreaking program of the yeshiva, which immerses all of its students in the “Art of Pastoral Counseling” as well as requiring a full summer of clinical pastoral education in an accredited program. Both Dr. Friedman and Dr. Yehuda spoke of the joy of collaborating on this project over many years, many walks, and many edits and re-edits. Dr. Friedman spoke of the importance of writing down all the oral Torah (Torah sheba’al peh) contained in all these encounters and true life stories, in order to serve as models for so many others, for multiple generations. Dr. Yehuda spoke of the powerful influence her father, Rabbi Dr. Zvi Yehuda, may his memory be blessed, had on her life and thought.

As a tribute to our mentor and teacher, Dr. Friedman, YCT graduates contributed over $10,000 for autographed books. The yeshiva will be giving the book as a gift to guests at its annual tribute dinner on March 5.

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